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Taiwan sets high target for tourists
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A target of more than 600,000 mainland visitors to Taiwan has been set for this year.

The ambitious target comes one year after the island was opened up to mainland tourists.

Since that time, 383,300 mainland tourists have visited the island, according to the Cross-Straits Tourism Association (CSTA) in Beijing.

Both sides want to increase that figure to at least 600,000 this year.

During a round table conference in Beijing on Saturday, CSTA President Shao Qiwei and Taiwan Straits Tourism Association (TSTA) Chairwoman Janice Lai declared the past year's achievement "a good start".

TSTA statistics suggested that 85 percent of mainland tourists were satisfied with their trips to Taiwan. Fewer than 10 percent were not satisfied with the tight schedules and long hours on the road.

According to Lai, more than 60 percent of mainland tour groups are on an eight-day tour that covers 1,800 km and takes in the most famous destinations, like the Sun Moon Lake and Mount Ali.

However, in the busy season of March and April, mainland tourists flock to the same scenic spots and restaurants at the same time, resulting in lower service standards.

Beijinger Sheng Zhiyun, who visited Taiwan this year, said that because of the crowds her group stayed at a hotel in the suburbs one hour's drive from downtown Taipei.

"We all felt exhausted and angry that we needed to take an hour-long bus trip to the hotel after an already tiring day of shopping at three different places," she said.

"It is disappointing, especially when some of my friends on previous trips told me they had a wonderful time."

Taiwan's tourism authority is strengthening management to upgrade the service quality.

More than 800 hotels are renovating their facilities and measures have been taken to prohibit local tour operators without enough capacity to handle mainland tour groups, Lai said.

New upcoming promotions will offer mainland tourists more in-depth and diversified tours in Taiwan to try to spread the flow of tourists, she said.

Under the impact of H1N1 flu, the number of mainland tourists to Taiwan dropped from its single-month high of 100,000 tourists in April.

Yao Ta Kuang, chairman of Travel Agent Association of Taiwan, said both sides should strengthen cooperation to hit the target of 600,000 tourists.

Lai said that an appraisal on whether mainland visitors could travel as individual tourists in Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu has been completed and submitted to Taiwan's "Executive Yuan" for approval.

(China Daily July 20, 2009)

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